Grocery Store Workers Express Frustration Over New Vaccine Plan

Kelly Langevin , Managing Editor

Grocery store workers across the state of Connecticut now no longer qualify for the next vaccine rollout phase, which took effect March 1.

“I am disappointed that grocery store workers were bumped from the vaccine and feel that we are on the front line every day waiting on customers who may or may not be following protocol,”  Kim Bradshaw Mentone said.

Mentone, who has worked at a grocery store for six years as a front-end supervisor, worked during the initial lockdown, running the curbside pick-up department for people who could not go into the store for safety reasons.

Mentone said that she works 40-50 hour weeks and that, “[grocery store employees] sometimes have to work longer than usual days, or extra shifts to cover people who have to quarantine due to exposure elsewhere.”

She also stated that her workplace has taken various precautions to keep the staff as safe as possible, including checking workers’ temperatures, limiting capacity, ensuring customers use the store’s hand sanitizer upon entrance, and installing plexiglass at registers.

Along with these measures, Mentone said grocery store workers should also have been eligible on March 1.

“I believe that due to the amount of people we encounter in a day, that we [grocery store employees] should have been kept on the list to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Mentone is not the only one who has expressed disappointment.

“I was extremely upset to find out that grocery store workers were not able to receive the vaccine for March 1,” Noralea Chesanek of Thomaston, CT, said.

Being denied completely from the next phase, “kind of felt like a slap in the face especially during the past year when a large focus was put on essential workers being heroes. We went to work every day, seven days a week. We are constantly exposed to people and put at risk.”

Chesanek said she has worked at a grocery store since Sept. 2018, and also worked throughout the lockdown. After losing one of her other jobs, Chesanek said her managers immediately came to her aid, giving her 30-40 hours a week to work.

“Between March to about June my hours were different each week because sometimes our produce delivery would show up at very late at night instead of early in the morning because our warehouse just couldn’t keep up with everything going on,” Chesanek said. “It’s understandable because the grocery store itself couldn’t keep up.”

She also said that the store had empty shelves for weeks, but since lockdown and in the following months, “things have calmed down substantially, but there are still products we are not able to get.”

Another factor adding to Chesanek’s frustration is being around customers who tell her they have family who recently tested positive, or people who refuse to wear masks.

Chesanek’s co-worker Alyssa Rakowski also worked during the lockdown and has been at the store for over a year.

“As a cashier, we put our customers above our own safety, and especially in Thomaston, the way cashiers are treated is unfair. We are constantly being disrespected and yelled at although we are putting our own safety on the line to provide service to those who don’t appreciate it,” Rakowski said.

Rakowski, however, is not upset about not qualifying for the next rollout.

“I am not upset because I take my own precautions to stay safe and I would not feel comfortable receiving a vaccine that has not been tested for a long period of time. I do understand, however, why others are upset,” Rakowski said.